The American Society of Magazine Editors has created new, voluntary guidelines for online ad formats, including product placements, paid links and “interruptive” ads.

Pursuant to the Best Practices for Digital Media, sponsored or paid links should be identified as such, marketing messages should not be integrated with editorial content, and Web sites should not promote products in exchange for advertising. According to the organization, the overriding principle of the guidelines is as follows: users should be able to tell whose content they are viewing.

Other provisions recommend that sponsored microsites be visually distinct from the main site and interruptive advertising be subject to editorial approval and contain a prominent “close” or “skip” button, lasting no more than 10 seconds. “Sponsored by” and “Brought to you by” are standard labels for editorial content supported by a single advertiser and should not be used for advertiser-provided content, according to the guidelines. Advertiser-provided content – like sponsored links and interactive tools or games – should be clearly labeled as advertising, with the source of the content and affiliation of the authors clearly acknowledged.

The guidelines advise that some ads do not need to be labeled as advertising, such as those placed above the navigation bar and on the right rail. However, advertisements placed elsewhere on the page – especially those that interrupt editorial space – should always be labeled as advertising.

The guidelines also emphasize compliance with the Federal Trade Commission’s recently revised “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising," noting that bloggers should disclose any commercial ties with a marketer or advertiser. The guidelines also address tablet ads, emphasizing the importance of ensuring that ads are made to look different from editorial pages. “Because many apps do not display adjacent pages, it is especially important that advertisements should not use typefaces, design elements and color schemes similar to those used on editorial pages,” according to the guidelines.

Editors should avoid using navigational controls similar to those used in editorial pages to minimize confusion, and ads that take over the user interface should include a prominent “skip” or “close” control.

To read the guidelines, click here.

Why it matters: The guidelines are voluntary, and violators typically receive a warning letter. However, to encourage compliance, ASME said persistent violators would not receive its National Magazine Awards.